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10 Reasons why e-books are better than real books

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Why resist the prospect of some genuinely light reading...?

Travelling light with literary ease in 'The Hitch Hikers Guide To The Galaxy' and 'Star Trek: The Next Generation'

“Print is dead,” according to Egon Spengler in the 1984 movie Ghostbusters, but it’s taken 27 years for him to be proved right. With the recent news that sales of Kindle books have overtaken paperbacks on Amazon, is it time to finally consign the book to the same category as the typewriter, the home telephone and the Space Shuttle?

Of course there are still lots of people bemoaning the fact that e-books “just aren’t the same as holding a real book in your hand” or that “they don’t have that same smell” and “what does this new technology mean for the future of libraries?” But I think it’s time to embrace this new technology. Books are nothing more than a delivery system for information, and as such they’re impractical, deeply flawed and poorly designed. So here’s a list of 10 reasons why I think we won’t need to be chopping down any more trees on behalf of Dan Brown or Jackie Collins...

1: Real books are too big and heavy

A little light reading in 'Night Of The Demon' (1957)

Ever tried to carry around more than 4 books at a time?

Especially true for students and Dungeon Masters; if you want reference books to hand, you have to do the one thing students and Dungeon Masters are very bad at - plan. You need to know where you’re going to be, what books you need and leave the rest at home. You just can’t carry your whole library with you.

2: Real books won't stay open

Don't you move, you bastard...

Ever tried to read a book no-handed? You can't.

If you let go of a paperback for so much as a second, it either slams itself shut and falls on the floor or it cunningly flips several pages back or forward and you lose your place. This means if you want to do anything else while reading your book, like cooking or eating a sandwich, you need to start weighing down the pages with heavy objects or bend the spine back, which damages the book and eventually makes the pages fall out.

3: Real books are expensive

"This had better be a bloody page-turner"

Just getting ink onto paper costs a lot of money. Then you have to ship the books out by truck (which uses fuel) to a store which has staff, rent and electricity costs. All of this has to be included in the final price. The rise of the e-book is sure to spell the end of the cheap mainstream book, purely for economic reasons. As the prospect of producing large runs of paperbacks becomes less viable, this in turn will put up the price of real books relative to their digital equivalent, and soon the snowball effect will take over.

4: You can't read real books in the dark

Jonathan Pryce tries to strike a hard literary bargain with Jason Robards in Disney's 'Something Wicked This Way Comes' (1983)

Books don't usually light up, unless you heat them to 451 degrees Fahrenheit, at which point they catch fire and can become difficult to read. Actually, some e-books have the opposite problem, as highlighted in the recent Kindle commercial (see below). Bright sunlight is a definite no-no for the iPad. On the other hand, reading a real book (or a Kindle for that matter) means sitting by a light, and if there isn’t one, bad luck.

5: You can't text search real books

"We'll never find it..."

Gary Gygax may have said “A DM only rolls the dice because of the noise they make” but he said it only after making millions of dollars from the sale of rule books and game supplements. Most Dungeon Masters still spend a lot of their time in-game sifting through indexes and contents, and ask a chemistry student the atomic weight of cobalt, and they’ll more than likely check Wikipedia and still get it wrong. So rather than search through the pages of a science book, an e-book allows almost instant fact-checking with an authoritative source.

6: Real books can't tell you the time

Rod Taylor finds little literary solace in George Pal's 'The Time Machine' (1960)

It's possibly a sign that you’ve been using your iPad a little too much lately when you glance to the top right corner of the book you're reading to look for the little clock, which isn't there.

7: Real books get damaged and lost

"And it had such great reviews, too"

Ever spent the weekend backing up your collection of Terry Pratchett? Didn't think so. Before the invention of the printing press, books were painstakingly hand-copied by monks, and beyond the reach of all but a few kings, clerics and scholars. With the arrival of the ubiquitous printed book, the written word could be distributed far and wide; books became cheap and plentiful; you could give them to friends, leave them in railway waiting rooms or read them in the bath.

The problem with all of this is that you can never find them when you want them, and when you do there’s always the chance that they’re damaged or, even worse, have pages missing, like in this Tony Hancock episode...

8: Libraries are rubbish

"The Linux section?"; "The WHAT...?"

I know a lot of people say they love libraries, but how many of you have been to one recently?

They are undoubtedly a wonderful institution, promoting literacy and providing a centre to many small communities; but the few times I’ve gone to get a book from a library, they either haven't had what I wanted or it's been lent out already. Could there be a better solution in the 21st century? Some kind of electronic lending system which allowed users to ‘borrow’ books for free for a limited time and perhaps discover e-books they might not otherwise have found? The alternative, as local government looks at cutting all but the most essential services, is that the library suffers the same fate as DVD rental stores have in the face of on-line movie rental.

9: You have to go to a shop to buy real books

"We get 'em all - sun-worshippers, moon-worshippers..."

Yes it seems obvious, but it’s another area where e-books have a great advantage. One of the things this age of instant delivery of media such as music, films and TV shows has led to is the ‘want-it-now’ culture. As soon as you’ve finished one Harry Potter, you want to start the next. You don’t want to have to drive twelve miles, find a parking space and then find out it’s ‘Sold Out!’

10: People can't see what e-book you’re reading.

"I never knew he had such a fruity prose style"

Ok, so sometimes we want that hot girl on the train to know we’re 'into Proust’ or 'reading The Complete Works of Shakespeare’; but most of the time we’re reading those guilty pleasures, as the continued rise of sales in pulp romance novels attests. With eBooks, there's no more hiding that Stephanie Meyer inside a copy of the Financial Times.


Also see: Ten Ways The iPhone Has Already Killed The Classic Movie

Ten Ways The iPhone Has Already Killed The Classic Movie


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Comments 

 
#1 Kind of agree, but... Martin Anderson 2011-02-02 10:48
...it just depends how much I'm willing to put up with the loss of the comfortable familiarity of the smell and feel of 'real' books. I spent so much time in bookshops in my twenties that I became allergic to formaldehyde, and ever since then can't spend more than 5 minutes in a bookshop without feeling ill. But I still go in...
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#2 Libraries are way ahead of you... Brian Vander Veen 2011-02-02 19:55
"Some kind of electronic lending system which allowed users to ‘borrow’ books for free for a limited time and perhaps discover e-books they might not otherwise have found?"

Many public libraries are already doing exactly this, allowing for remote ebook downloads through Overdrive. The service doesn't work for Kindle (because of Amazon's proprietary approach), but works for the Sony Reader, Nook, and the like. For many libraries, the selection at the moment is limited, but the move to ebooks has already begun.

Also, with regard to the problem you've had with the book you want not being available when you visit, have you used the library's online catalog to check the availability of the book before your visit? Also, check whether your library allows you to place books on hold. At my library, we can reserve any book in the district and receive an email notification when it arrives.
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#3 RE: 10 Reasons why e-books are better than real books R. Mansfield 2011-02-03 18:15
On #10, don't you mean CAN'T?
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#4 Richard Cosgrove Richard Cosgrove 2011-02-04 09:44
I have to admit, I agree with all ten points, but there's that something indefinably glorious about the feel and smell of a real book that I'm never going to be able to give them up completely.

Plus, when it comes to 'coffee table' books, there's nothing like leisurely flicking through a weighty tome on your lap, savouring each tune of the page....... :-)
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#5 RE: 10 Reasons why e-books are better than real books Mark Cotterill 2011-02-04 19:16
@Brian - yes that does sound very interesting - I hope that takes off. Re. your comments about checking before you go to the library, I didn't know that was possible but yes it certainly would save a wasted journey, but even with that and the booking/blocking system, the library has to compete with the fact that getting there and back on public transport might cost about the same, or only slightly less than, a simple click on Amazon for the whole book - to keep!

As for the idea that books are intrinsically better, well I agree up to a point, excluding the points I've made here (not all of them serious). Books won't disappear completely, I'm sure there'll be a healthy market in second-hand books for many lifetimes to come, but maybe it will be like the horse/car analogy. They'll still be around, but not quite hold the same importance that they once did.
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#6 RE: 10 Reasons why e-books are better than real books Meg 2012-09-17 19:42
I love my ereader, but until they are waterproof, unbreakable, possessed of a much longer battery life, and capable of being read in the tub, they wont replace books. Plus I could never afford to replace all the books I already own.

What I do love my Nook for is travelling. Being able to have 100 books in my bag at the start of a trip is awesome.
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#7 1984 Calipzo Avery 2012-12-21 07:55
the problem with e-books is that someone or group of people can change the contents of this or that book and you would never know, unless you had the printed book next to you.
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#8 reasons for ebooks Steve B Robinson 2014-05-16 18:55
yes, they have their place, but its just another nail in the sociability coffin.....going into a book store, talking with others in there about a certain title, reading in the bath or the swimming pool............they are certainly great for taking several books on holiday, but heres the real rub...............THEY ARE NOT BOOKS....they are electronic readers. They supply the print but not the whole story. No cover. Nowhere to scribble notes, no smell and I can read a book in all sunlight conditions.......and, the worst really, is that it surely limits the amount of money to be made by the author and of course, there is NO SECOND HAND market for ebooks.......you cant sell it. You dont own it even if you paid for it.
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